Monthly Archives: July 2019


Jeremy Smith sings John Denver

Adam’s Fanshawe Plays

Childhood inspiration becomes localized summer production

For whatever reason, audiences can’t get enough of animals who behave like humans.

Dan Ebbs, left, is Mole, and Kydra Ryan is Ratty in The Wind in the Willows, an Alvego Root Theatre production. Not much happens in the languid playing, but the characters do go punting on the river (Photo by Richard Gilmore)

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For whatever reason, audiences can’t get enough of animals who behave like humans.

Whether it’s George Orwell’s novel Animal Farm, the television series Tales From the Riverbank or Muppets such as Kermit the frog, Miss Piggy and Rowlf the dog, there is a long history of artists who use non-humans to tell their stories, imbuing the characters with the traits of homo sapiens to make them relatable.

Now, comes a new all-ages play from London’s Alvego Root Theatre, the company with a mission to tell local stories. It’s an adaptation of the much-reinterpreted 1908 novel The Wind in the Willows by British author Kenneth Grahame, and features actors playing storied characters such as Mr. Toad, Mole, Badger and Ratty.

“This new version reimagines the classic story in a Southwestern Ontario setting, steeped in the natural history of the region,” the troupe’s website says.

Artistic director Adam Corrigan Holowitz first saw a production of Wind in the Willows at the Grand Theatre in 1999 when he was three years old. That production, he says, is what inspired him to become involved in theatre. “It’s always been in my head as a reference point,” he said. “I adapted it the way I’d always imagined it.”

If you recall reading The Wind in the Willows as a child, you’ll remember that not much happens. The characters spend time punting on the river and generally messing about, in the process learning lessons about how to get along with others.

“I think it’s a story about friendship,” Corrigan Holowitz said. “Friends sometimes tell you what you need to hear,” as opposed to what you’d like to hear.

And although the performers – including Dan Ebbs as Mole, Kydra Ryan as Ratty and Jason Rip as Toad – don’t dress up in animal costumes, they do give the audience cues through their “animal physicality.”

“One of the things we did early on (in rehearsals) is explore the animal movement,” said Corrigan Holowitz.

One example is how Mole sniffs his way across the stage. “Mole leads by his nose; everything is driven by scent. Ratty uses her hands,” said Corrigan Holowitz.

One of the underlying themes of the piece is dealing with technology of the day, except in this case the leading edge of innovation is represented by a new-fangled motor car – not a cellphone – with which Toad becomes obsessed.

“The first time (the animals) see the car, it drives them off the road,” Corrigan Holowitz said.

And theatre lovers may find the laid-back, languid vibe of the piece is perfect for a mid-summer theatre production. “There is this tinge of melancholy in it,” said Corrigan Holowitz. “There’s moment you forgot they’re animals.”

The Wind in the Willows begins its run July 10. The other summer production from Alvego Root Theatre is Fools And Lovers.


IF YOU GO

What: Alvego Root Theatre’s adaptation of The Wind in the Willows

When: July 10 at 3 p.m., July 11, 17, 18, 23 at 7:30 p.m. and July 24 at 2 p.m.

Where: Fanshawe Pioneer Village, enter at 1424 Clarke Road through Fanshawe Conservation Area

How much: $20 for adults and $11 for children (12 years old and younger); $45 for two adults and two children

Online: For Fools and Lovers performance times, visit fanshawepioneervillage.ca/events/summer-theatre-presents-wind-willows-fools-and-lovers